A healthy vagina will produce around 700ml of mucus discharge every month, which can differ in appearance and consistency throughout a woman's monthly cycle. At the beginning and end of a woman's cycle there will be a small amount of mucus, which is creamy or milky in colour. When a woman is ovulating then the mucus become transparent and malleable. The discharge should always have a neutral smell and mucus that has a strong smell may indicate a health problem.
If you have a vaginal discharge that is unusual in smell or texture, causes itching and burning or leaves smelly spots on your underwear then you might have an infection. This may only be a minor infection, but you should always consult your GP, as unusual discharge can be the first sign of serious illnesses such as cervicitis, cervical erosion or polyps. It can also indicate STIs or cancerous lesions in the genital organs and untreated infections may lead to infertility.
There are numerous bacteria inside the vagina and most are there to protect it. Good bacteria (called lactobacilli) inside the vagina should flourish and outnumber potentially harmful bacteria, keeping the vagina's pH balance at a healthy level. A healthy vagina can produce lactobacilli and bacteriocins (naturally occurring antibiotics) that protect the vagina and help to reduce the occurrence of harmful bacteria in the vagina.
When a woman's internal ecosystem is in balance there should not be any strong smell from her vagina. Everyone has their own biochemical scent, which can be stronger when you are sexually stimulated or during ovulation, but this scent has a very delicate and subtle composition. Factors such as diet, phase of a woman's cycle and intimate hygiene can effect vaginal scent. If you or a sexual partner detect a strong scent from your vagina then you should consult your GP.
The best are mild, gynaecologist tested gels and creams for daily use. Please avoid perfumed body gels, soaps and hair shampoo - it's important to keep your intimate pH in good condition. Gently wash the area around your vagina (the vulva) every day. A healthy vagina is able to clean itself inside your body with its own natural vaginal secretions and bacteria.
A douche flushes water up into the vagina, thus clearing out vaginal secretions. Some women use a douche to 'clean' the vagina, but using one can disrupt normal vaginal bacteria and actually increase the risk of vaginal infections. There is no medical evidence that douching protects against sexually transmitted infections or vaginal infections in any way.
To reduce your risk of developing vaginal thrush use of lubrication during sexual intercourse, avoid tight, synthetic clothing; loose, cotton knickers may help. Avoid perfumed soaps, gels and bubble baths and vaginal deodorants.
Last updated April 15, 2018